The problem with food dollars and price gouging at the P.O.D.

The+P.O.D.+Market+at+Seahawk+Crossing+on+Jan.+31%2C+2020.
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The problem with food dollars and price gouging at the P.O.D.

The P.O.D. Market at Seahawk Crossing on Jan. 31, 2020.

The P.O.D. Market at Seahawk Crossing on Jan. 31, 2020.

Darius Melton

The P.O.D. Market at Seahawk Crossing on Jan. 31, 2020.

Darius Melton

Darius Melton

The P.O.D. Market at Seahawk Crossing on Jan. 31, 2020.

William Becker, Staff Writer

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UNC Wilmington notably has four convenience stores located around campus, each of which are known as the “P.O.D.” The four P.O.D.’s are located in the Fisher Student Union, the Hub, Seahawk Crossing and near Seahawk Landing, which is not listed at all UNCW’s campus dining site. These four stores are the only places on campus where students can buy milk, frozen dinners and kitchen essentials with their prime locations making them the most convenient places for students who are restricted to shopping on campus.

Freshmen or any student living in the dorms are required to get one of the two most expensive meal plans, the All Access 5, which is $1,950 a semester, or the All Access 7, which is $2,050, with different options available for students off-campus, including the ability to not have a meal plan at all. Meal plans consist of three basic components: unlimited swipes at two meal halls on campus, a select number of pre-paid meals at restaurants on campus, and finally, food dollars, which can best be explained as real money being turned into money that can only be spent on campus. 

 It is also important to note that the P.O.D. markets, along with the restaurants and vending machines on campus, are the only places students can spend food dollars. Food dollars are a component of two different meal plans for students. Students living on campus, primarily freshmen, are required to purchase food dollars as part of their meal plan. The All Access 5 comes with  150 food dollars while the All Access 7 comes with 250. These meal plans are created on a per-semester basis. It is also important to note that the only place food dollars can be spent off-campus is Papa Johns, meaning that they do not have any use beyond UNCW’s campus.

 “What is the point of food dollars when that same money could just be in my pocket and used elsewhere,” asked Jack Casterella, a freshman senator and Vice-Chair of the Campus Services Committee.

On the other hand, Katie South of the meal plan office at UNCW has defended food dollars as something that is good for students. 

“Food dollars are more of a convenience portion of your meal plan, they are great for grabbing a few items at the P.O.D Convenience stores or single items from retail locations,” wrote South.

Research by the Seahawk was conducted at the P.O.D. Market at Landing using a bar code scanner to compare the P.O.D. with prices at the local Walmart in Wilmington. Listed below is a chart with the scanned product on the left, the POD. Market’s price for the said product in the middle and Walmart on the right. 

 

Product Price at the P.O.D. Market at Landing Price at Walmart
Tampax Pearl, 18 Count $7.99 $3.83
Midol Complete, Menstrual Period Symptoms Relief (16 Caplets) $6.99 $0.75
Oscar Mayer Deli Oven Roasted Sliced Turkey Breast 9 oz. $7.29 $4.28
NESQUIK Chocolate Milk 14 fl oz. bottle. $3.19 $1.36
Visine Original. Eye Drops for Red Eyes $6.99 $3.24
Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Syrup 24 oz. $3.79 $1.98
Kellog’s Special K 12 oz. $5.98 $2.98
Poptarts. Strawberry 8 count. $3.89 $1.94

 

Most items listed seem to be at least twice as much at the P.O.D. as they are at the local Walmart. But the largest price discrepancy was with a pack of 16 caplets of Midol, a popular over the counter medication for period relief, went from 75 cents at Walmart all the way up to $6.99 at the P.O.D, marking a 932 percent price increase. 

Food dollars, not only encourage, but require students to spend money at these locations. Students on the same meal plans that give $150 a semester get five meals a week from any restaurant on campus, which means that most of these dollars are never going to be spent elsewhere. It is for this reason that the price difference could be seen as a concern, as well as the concept of mandatory food dollars for freshmen. Sure, some could argue that the P.O.D. is more expensive purely for convenience, but this does not explain why food dollars are mandatory. UNCW students are being trapped with food dollars, and one of their only places to spend it is the overpriced P.O.D. market. This money should just be in our pockets. 

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